Guide to Proper Inflation and Maintenance of Towable Tubes

Towable Tube Inflation and Maintenance Guide

Source: Action Sports International (http://www.actionsportsinternational.com)

Welcome to our article on inflating and setting up your Towable Tube. We literally live and breath Towable Tubes as we spend every summer providing Ringo Rides to the public at Goring Gap in Worthing, West Sussex. As a result, we have an immense amount of first-hand experience of using all manner of towable tubes and we have become experts on how to get the very best out of them.

Towable Tube Inflation

Towable Tubes will provide many years of exhilaration and faithful service if they are looked after properly, but neglecting your Towable Tube will dramatically shorten its lifespan. To keep everything in tip top condition, and to therefore get the most out of your Towable, simply follow these basic guidelines.

It is important to understand that inflating a Towable Tube does not require high pressure like a car tyre. Instead, Towable Tubes work on high volume and low pressure, just like a RIB boat. A correctly inflated RIB will probably only have about 1.5 P.S.I. (pounds per square inch) of pressure in its tubes, but the tubes will feel very firm to the touch and can be sat on with very little noticable "give". The same principle applies to Towable Tubes and a properly inflated tube will only be able to boast around 2 P.S.I. of pressure at the very most.

Under-Inflation is probably the single most damaging thing that you can do to your Towable Tube. Tubes are designed to sit on top of the water and skim the surface, not plough through the waves like a drogue. If your Towable Tube is under-inflated it will sit too low in the water when a rider is on it and water will be able to flood between the bladder and the nylon cover causing drag. This will put excessive strain on the nylon cover, tow point, tow rope, and boat itself, and it is likely that the cover will tear as a result.

An under-inflated Towable Tubes will also have a tendancy to "torpedo" i.e. the nose will begin to dig into the water and it will start to tip forward. A tube in this state is dangerous and will be virtually impossible to get onto the plane (the state in which the tube is skimming on the surface of the water with little or no drag). It will also place excessive load on the Towable Tube Rope which if overloaded could break unexpectedly and recoil back into the boat. In order to prevent all of these hazards it is essential that you inflate your tube correctly according to the manufacturer's instructions.

A correctly inflated tube will have the following characteristics: -

The outside of the tube will be firm to the touch
The nylon cover will be wrinkle free and taught in all areas
When sitting on the tube there will be very little "give"
It will be difficult to slide your hand between the bladder and the nylon cover
If you pull the nylon cover away from the bladder it will "snap" back into place
When towing it will rise quickly and easily onto the plane and it will skim the surface

A under-inflated tube will have the following characteristics: -

The nylon cover will be wrinkled
It will be easy to slide your hand between the bladder and the nylon cover
When towing the nose will dig into the water and it will tip forward
It will be almost impossible to get the tube onto the plane without it tipping forward

Obviously you can also over-inflate a tube. Optimal pressure for most tubes is 2 PSI but always check the manufacturer's instructions for confirmation. You will quickly learn when a tube looks and feels "right".

Having the right Towable Tube Pump is another factor as not all pumps are created equal. We sell Foot Pumps, Hand Pumps and Electric Pumps, all of which are designed specifically for Towable Tube Inflation as they can deliver the high volumes necessary for the job. However, we suggest that if you have a larger tube (2+ Person) that you invest in a good 12V Electric Pump or 240V Electric Pump as it will dramatically reduce the amount of effort required to pump up your Towable thus reducing the time it takes to get out on the water. 1 man tubes can be easily inflated by hand, but again a 12V Electric Pump will speed things up and generally make your life easier. Blowing up even a 1 man tube using just the puff in your lungs is not practical.

Towable Tube Maintenance and Storage

The advice in this section will take no time all to put into practise, but it will add years to the life of your valuable Towable Tube.

Always rinse your Towable Tube with fresh water after every outing. If it has become dirty then sponge it down with warm soapy water and then rinse it thoroughly with fresh water. It is sometimes easier to do this when the tube is still inflated if this is practical. Thoroughly rinse your tow rope at this point too and if you are using caribiners then give them a good rinse and a quick squirt of WD40.

Never leave your Towable Tube sitting in the sun as the bladder and nylon cover can be damaged by heat expansion. UV can also play havoc with the materials as well as fading the colours over time. The same goes for your tow rope as this too can be damaged by over-exposure to UV.

Whilst rinsing your tube check that there are no small stones or sharp sand particles caught between the canvas cover and the bladder. This is a classic problem when using tubes on the sea and some of these tiny stones can be razor sharp and can cause untold damage.

Before storage, take the opportunity to regularly inspect the condition of all of the major parts of your tube. Start with the grab handles (you don't want one of those coming off in your hand at high speed), then the canvas cover itself, and finally check the tow point and the tow rope for signs of fraying or other stress damage. Also check the condition of your tow bridle or bungee extension if you are using one.

Always store your Towable Tube in a deflated state as this will prevent stretching of the nylon cover and will also make it more difficult for it to be accidentally damaged while in storage.

Always store your Towable Tube when it is completely dry as any dampness can cause a build-up of mould and mildew which can lead to permanent staining of the materials.

Always store your Towable Tube out of direct sunlight and in a place that does not expose it to extremes of temperature.

Dry your Towable Tube Rope prior to storage and wind it loosely in 12 inch loops. Better still, invest in a Line Winder as these are great for storing ropes and for keeping your boat safe and "trip-fee" when out on the water.

Remember that rodents often take a liking to plastics and nylon. We always dry our Towables thoroughly and then store them in a cupboard indoors where they will be warm and safe from the dreaded mice. This also prevents them from being exposed to extremes of temperature which extends their lives considerably.

Buy a Towable Tube Bag to protect your valuable Tube during storage and transportation.

Finally, NEVER be tempted to use your tube as a sledge if it snows. This might seem like a great idea at the time but it will almost certainly damage the tube, usually beyond repair.

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